19 August 2011, Sweetcrude, Miami – Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio has advised the management of abandoned Amakpe refineries in Eket to begin work or refund the state government investment in the project.
Issuing the advise in Miami, Florida, United States of America, Akpabio said the state government had invested $10 million in the project as part of its contributions to the take-off of the project, even though it was a private-sector driven venture.
Answering questions from Akwa Ibom state indigenes in the US at a business session of the annual convention of Akwa Ibom State Association of Nigeria (USA INC.), Chief Akpabio said, if the initiators were not interested in the project again, the state government investment in the project should be refunded.
He explained that, although, approval for the project was granted by the administration of Obong Victor Attah, its operators have not found it necessary to get it off the ground many years after issuance of license, adding that the project was a liability his administration inherited from the previous administration. “The Amakpe refinery was a private initiative that was supposed to have started way back”.
The negotiations for the establishment of the project were concluded by the previous administration. But towards the tail end of the life of that administration, the state government that granted the approval, instituted a lawsuit against it, demanding for the withdrawal of its 25 per cent equity from Amakpe investment. “So, I inherited a liability from the previous administration right from the beginning,” Governor Akpabio said.
He also explained that when he took over the mantle of leadership in 2007, he revisited the case and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the operators and the state government. The level of government involvement was reviewed to the tune of $6.5 million. But, he regretted that since that was done, the operators have not made any attempt to either explore means of establishing the refinery or refunding the outstanding money they owe the government.
“The desire to establish a refinery dates back to the previous administration. Based on the agreement reached, the state government paid in the total sum of $10 million into an escrow account. But the Amakpe operators withdrew the money without the knowledge of the previous administration, which led to litigation. This withdrawal was made without any work done at the site where the refinery was supposed to be sited in Eket and Nsit Ubium local governments. When I became governor, I called for the file and thereafter met with the initiators of the project, an agreement was reached. But since then, we have not heard anything from them,” Akpabio said.
He also added that out of the sum of $3.5 million the management of Amakpe supposed to refund to the state government, only $1.5 million was refunded.
He asked rhetorically, why the state government would invest so much money in the project and would not want it to see the light of the day, saying that the reason why his government has invested so much money on infrastructural development was for the state to attract investors. “I am still surprised that people are blaming the government for lack of commitment on the part of the initiators of the project,” adding “don’t forget that the project was supposed to be a private-driven one, but the state government in its magnanimity decided to provide the fund for its take-off as a way of encouraging and attracting other investors to the state to provide jobs for the youths,” he added.